Protestors voice flooding fears at Highgate Bowl planning inquiry

“Disastrous” flooding could wreck homes near a former garden centre if controversial plans to build luxury accommodation on the Highgate Bowl site are approved by a planning inspector.

Residents living in Cholmeley Crescent, Highgate village, voiced their fears at a packed one-day Planning Inspectorate hearing on Tuesday after already experiencing flooding in their homes.

Retired Terry Meinrath, 67, fears building three family houses to replace Highgate Garden Centre, off Townsend Yard, could disrupt dormant rivers underground.

He said: “We can get a quarter of an inch of standing water. There are five houses at risk.

“We’re not talking about the flooding you get on the news here – but there is a potential for leaking damp into the basements and, eventually, that’s going to cause all sorts of problems.

“I and my neighbours are concerned that any new foundations or basements would cause the water in the underground streams to be diverted and in turn the houses could be flooded.”

Last year, Haringey Council refused a bid by Omved International Ltd, based in the British Virgin Islands, to redevelop the 11-acre site.

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The developers are now appealing the decision with the inspectorate, which is due to give its final verdict in the coming months.

Neighbour Jane Lister, a 73-year-old retiree, added that any digging or basement works would be a “disaster” for those living in Cholmeley Crescent.

Planning consultants for the developers, Michael Burroughs Associates, declined to comment.

Haringey Council, Michael Burroughs Associates and residents all agreed Highgate Bowl’s “importance” to the Highgate Conservation Area at the hearing at Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green.

Stephen Levrant, on behalf of the developers, said: “To me, the significance of the site has been reflected in the architectural approach.”

Importance

But barrister Nathalie Lieven QC, acting for the Highgate Society after residents raised about £10,000 for her fees, said developers had “misunderstood” the historical importance of the site.

“The importance of this site has been emphasised and it’s not just important in a Highgate context – but in a London-wide context,” she said.

“There has been a fundamental misunderstanding that the bowl is just a contributor to the setting of the conservation area.

“Its historic character is fundamental to the conversation area itself.”

The appeal is the latest in more than 50 years of planning applications to redevelop the valuable stretch of land.

A mini-Eden project, an environmental learning centre for adults and children, and quiet public woodland are among preferred ideas proposed by protesters for an acceptable redevelopment.

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